Bees may be, even in swarms

Groen:    Gemak:

Occasionally we hear distress-calls about reducing numbers of bees. This is an immense problem because bees are useful pollinators of numerous crops on which we depend. Are there too few beekeepers, or are we all doing something horribly wrong to bees?

Keywords: garden habitat health


Western countries are often crowded, with little space left for nature. Regardless of the importance of bees to our survival, we hardly leave them any room. We stow bees at beekeepers, and as soon as we encounter them elsewhere we call the pests.

Quite a lot of people fear being stung by bees. If they see one, they start flapping around so actively that they trigger a bee's defensive instincts, resulting in the much-feared sting. Of course they only have themselves to blame. By the way, this applies equally to wasps, which are much more common to sting than bees.

Given that we can simply let bees be and have no quarrel with them, we can actually welcome them in our environments. Why not, if a buzzing garden is so much more pleasant than one that is silent?

Beekeepers do their best to keep bees in their hives, instead of having them swarm out. They do this because it gains them more honey, but also because they do not want to trouble their neighbours with swarming bees. But swarming is part of a bee colony's natural cycle, and it may be better for all of us if we let them.

Beekeepers, do consider allowing your bees to swarm, en pick up local swarms to store in clean hives. Civilians and law-makers, learn to understand that bees are mild-mannered, and that beekeepers will gladly come to pick up a swarm.


Our planet receives energy from the Syn, and uses mainly photosynthesis to turn it into growth. Growth of such an abundance that we can eat from it, or that we can eat animals that feed on it. But sunlight is not all that is required; a plant must also be able to propagate. To get fruits on a plant, it must be pollinated, and bees happily do this at no expense at all. Compared to manual labour with cotton swabs, this is quite a valuable service!

This makes is absurd that we repell bees from our lives. Why do we fear insects that are not agressive by nature, as long as we stay cool around them and avoid threatening their hives? Even alergic reactions can usually be overcome by proper treatment.

When a bee colony swarms, its queen leaves the hive with roughly half of the colony, in such a composition that it forms a proper new colony. The hive is left with brood that will give new bees in the days to come, including new queens, who in turn will swarm and take half a hive's bees. This means that a single hive produces multiple bee colonies, if it is allowed to swarm. A swarm usually hangs on to something for a few days, until a new residence has been found. It is in this time that a beekeeper will gladly come and pick up the swarm and move them to a new home. The swarm itself is usually harmless when treated with some respect.

Swarming is an effective way to propagate bees, and get more colonies out of a single one. It is natural behaviour for bees, and it is good for them for reasons of hygiene.

Most people know that bees are under threat of diseases. The worst one at the moment is Varroa, which is a mite that develops in the brood of the bees. Beekeers cut out the drones (which are the male larvea) in which the mites manifest themselves most strongly, and destroy that. This does nothing to force bees to develop their own defense against Varroa. Interestingly though, the best response to a hive invested with Varroa turns out to be hygiene.

A beekeeper forcefully keeps a bee colony in a hive for years in row; this is less hygienic than bees want to be. Their natural tendency to swarm means that older and dirty hives are left behind. By avoiding swarming, the beekeeper makes it impossible for the bees to sustain their natural level of hygiene, which he must compensate with actions like replacing parts of the bee hive.

When a hive swarms out, it usually leaves honey behind, but not as much as a beekeeper could gain from a non-swarming bee hive. But if they are left to swarm, the number of bees increases, quite possible yielding the same amount of honey as currently is achieved with smaller numbers of long-term bee hives.

The current system is dependent on the number of beekepers that manage to keep bees inside the hives; that is irresponsible because beekeeping is not an economic activity, but rather a hobby. Considering the importance of bees to our survivial as human race, this is far less recognition than would be suited. Bees should be revivid, and allowing them back in suburbs and forests could be a very good start.


Bees appear to suffer from the unnatural approach they are receiving from beekeepers. There is no problem in assigning them to a home once they have swarmed out, but constraining their natural tendency to swarm constrains the growth in the number of bee colonies.

By controlling bees to a much lesser degree, and by letting them swarm when they want to (not just being let by the beekeeper, but also by civilians and governments) there will be more bee colonies, that can be captured and housed by beepeekers until next year.

This non-controlling beekeeping can be done with a simple hive, made out of bundles of straw or ropes, sawn together in the proper shape. After the bees have left, any remaning honey can be reclaimed, as well as wax and propolis (which is a kind of kit).

Aside from the bees that form colonies, there also are solitary bees. These enjoy holes of 6-8 mm diameter with light falling in from the South. In these holes they put an egg, a drop of honey and some pollen, followed by a small wall and then this is repeated for more offspring. By drilling such holes in a pergola or by setting up a special block of wood for this purpose, you will attract such solitary bees. You will never harvest honey from such bees, but you are likely to harvest more or better apples and pears!


Most localities have a beekeepers' club, and it is interesting to take a beekeeping course at one of them. The complexity of life in a hive is fascinating. Also ask them where you can learn how to make your own bee hives from straw.

Naturally there is a lot of online information about bees.